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In a matchup more fitting for the area final, the No. 5 Sterling girls will face No. 16 Velma-Alma in the first round of the regional tournament on Thursday.
The game is high risk, high reward. If the Lady Comets (18-4) can make it past the Lady Tigers (22-3), they would have a great opportunity to make it to the state tournament.
With such a tough draw, coach Kenny Bare is focused on this game and how the Lady Comets can pull the upset.
“We’re going to show up, play and do the best we can,” Bare said. “Sterling’s got good athletes, size, quickness, good shooters and a really good coach.”
Velma-Alma counters that with a 14-game winning streak and home-court advantage. Part of why they have been able to build that streak has been the team’s speed in transition. They can compete with the Sterling in that area of the game, but the size is another story.
The Lady Comets will be going up against much taller opponents, and that has been hard for Bare to gameplan against.
“We’ve practiced against our junior high boys, and they have some size,” Bare said. “Hopefully that will help us, but you can’t make your second team girls be big and tall for practice purposes.”
If the Comets can push their win streak to 15, it will be a while before they are tested at the same level again. In the regional final they would play either Blair or Alex.
Blair (17-5) on paper would look to be the toughest task, but it barely escaped district after being picked by Hollis to play in the first round. They beat Hollis and Navajo, which both have losing records, by a combined seven points.
Alex’s (11-10) resume isn’t much more impressive. Though it beat Macomb 62-24 to win its district, it lost seven out of its last 10 games before entering the playoffs, a contradiction from the surging Comets.
“You want to be playing your best basketball no matter what team you are or what your record is,” Bare said. “This is when it counts.”
The No. 14 boys basketball team seemed to be out of rhythm when it lost two straight games at the end of January. The Comets (17-5) rounded nicely to win five out of six, including an 85-38 beatdown of Vanoss in the district final last Saturday.
“We played the best we have all season,” Bare said. “We came out clicking... Everybody was playing well. We need to keep that going for sure. “
No. 8 Fletcher will try to stop the momentum on Thursday. As with the girls game, the boys game will be in Velma. Bare thinks that could be an advantage for both teams.